If Michael Keaton wasn’t in Birdman, this would be the comeback of the year. So this is about a former comedian (Chris Rock) who has made the decision not to be funny anymore. He wants to be taken seriously as an actor, and a reporter (Rosario Dawson) follows him around a day in his life so as to get a great interview that can relay these sentiments to the people. When you talk about surprises of the year, this is one of the highest ones up there. The only thing I really knew about this going in was that it is Chris Rock making a comeback with a well-made film. Who would have thought the Zebra from Madagascar, the stand-up comic pointing out the differences between how white people and black people do everyday activities, and the director of I Think I Love My Wife would have a movie that is THIS good in him, and he shines doing triple-duty, directing, writing and starring in this film.
For somebody who still, to this day, has difficulty giving good eye focus while he is acting, this is certainly saying something.
What Rock has done here is make something this is both raucously hilarious as well as genuinely earnest. This is all about a man striving to be relevant, trying to put his past behind him and move on to the next stage of his career, and you can’t help but see the man behind the curtain: this is Chris Rock making a statement about his own life. It makes sense when you think about it; the kind of pressure that comes along with being a comedian has to be enormous, which is probably why you see so many of them that have problems with depression and alcoholism. How many times a day do you think they get, “Oh, you’re that funny guy? Do something funny!” It must get really old, really fast.
Another reason why this works so well is because Rock is letting down his proverbial hair, telling you exactly how he feels about his own career.
This is charming, hilarious, loaded with stars and the comedy that this season needed. It’s just so refreshing to see something so honest, which makes it a pleasure to watch. Dawson is fabulous, like she usually is, and I laughed out loud many times throughout. There are a couple of scenes that push the envelope, but they push it just to the right point where you can still remain on board without abandoning ship. The only mild complaint I have is in the vague title, and this might just be the biggest surprise of the year; if you watch this, you’re going to have a great time.
Top Five (2014) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2014? See for yourself here.